Frances Bellerby: First edition of 'Plash Mill' with signed poem, autograph letters and other manuscript items

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

First edition of 'Plash Mill with 12-line verse 'The Exile' on the verso of the half title

2 autograph letters to Leonard Clark

4 press articles

2 typed poems 'Needless to Say I was Alone' and 'The Disappointment of Robert Clayton'

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Eirene Frances Bellerby (1899-1975), poet (nee Parker), was born in Bristol on 29 August 1899. Her father, F. Talbot Parker, was a clergyman with a devotion to 'the poor'; her mother, Marion Eirene Thomas, a trained nurse. The sole brother of Frances volunteered and was killed in the First World War. From the age of twenty, she worked as a teacher, first at a school and later as a private tutor to the Cecil Fry family, and at about the same time began writing articles for 'The Bristol Times and Mirror'. In 1925 she first met her future husband, John Rotherford Bellerby, a Fellow of Caius College Cambridge, whom she married in December 1929. A socialist economist, he set up an organisation called The Neighbours, which required its members to live on the national average income. The result was 'virtual ostracism' for married women, such as Mrs Bellerby. Six months later she had a fall in which she badly damaged her spine. This coloured her outlook for the remainder of her life, having been a very athletic person in her youth. In 1932 she published a novel, 'Shadowy Bricks', which describes her and her husband's vision of education. Just before the book appeared, her mother committed suicide.

In 1934, having written no poems since her marriage, she temporarily separated from her husband. They continued to live together on and off for another eight years before parting in 1942, when her husband became a Lecturer in Economics at Glasgow University; Frances started writing poetry again at this point. At her Cornish cottage, Plash Mill, she wrote in earnest, publishing poetry, short stories and a novel, 'Hath the Rain a Father'. In 1950 she was diagnosed as having breast cancer and was given a year to live. In 1954, having spent three-and-a-half unhappy and artistically sterile years in a cottage at Clearbrook, Devon, she bought a semi-detached cottage called Upsteps at Goveton, near Kingsbridge, Devon, where she remained for the rest of her life, battling against insanity, loss and illness, and writing new poems, most of which were published by The Enitharmon Press.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Christine Faunch 23 Aug 2007. Revised by Christine Faunch 21 Jan 2009.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply

Custodial History

Originally in the Alan Clodd library.

Related Material

See also EUL MS 50b, EUL MS 82 and EUL MS 331. Other papers relating to Frances Bellerby are held at Bath Record Office and the Brotherton Library, Leeds.